1. Friedrich Schiller provided the inspiration. “All people become brothers” – that was the key line of Schiller ‘s 1785 poem “Ode to Joy”. This poem apparently fascinated his contemporary Beethoven. For decades he intended to put the text to music, and finally did so in his Symphony No. 9, which was first performed in 1824.
  2. Beethoven, one of the first Europeans? You could say so. It has been passed down to us that Beethoven was enthusiastic about the ideas behind the French Revolution. International understanding was also important to the composer.
  3. Only instrumental. “All people become brothers” – that reflects the European vision, but only the instrumental version of the piece was declared the European anthem. Why? None of the many languages of Europe was to be given preferential treatment – and the language of music is universal.
  4. European anthem officially in Esperanto? That was the proposal of the European Esperanto Union, when the Treaty of Lisbon opened up the opportunity to launch a European citizens’ initiative – but the proposal was rejected. 
  5. The Council of Europe was first. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” was been the anthem of the Council of Europe since 1972. It was more than a decade later, in 1985, that the European Community, as the EU was still known at that time, decided to follow suit.
  6. Arranged by Herbert von Karajan. The Council of Europe wanted different versions of the European anthem: a solo piano version, a wind orchestra version and a version for a symphony orchestra. The star conductor Herbert von Karajan was responsible for the arrangements.
  7. BTHVN2020. Sounds like a code, but the solution is simple: Beethoven sometimes abbreviated his name, by omitting the vowels (BTHVN). Under the umbrella of BTHVN2020, activities were to be held to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the composer, funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The pandemic has meant that many of the planned events could not take place, so the programme has been extended into 2021. You will find information and online events on the BTHVN2020 website.